The global pandemic has created a new norm in terms of shifting involvement activity to digital methods and it’s important to recognise that a large majority of ‘traditional’ face to face consultation activity can be replicated online.
An unintended benefit of social distancing is that there’s also been an improvement in the attitudes and abilities of citizens interacting online, so they are better equipped and more familiar with the process of using the technology.
Organisations need to adopt a ‘digital first’ approach which encourages digital engagement without stifling the ability to participate offline, providing an inclusive and blended experience.
There are a number of benefits to digital first. It can make better use of resources – people, time and funding – but the reality is that it does require up front investment in digital technologies, it needs staff training and capability, and it can alter the dynamic of conversations and interactivity.
There’s never a better time than now to get going with digital techniques, using the post lockdown period to reflect on what to keep doing digitally and what must revert back to normal, if indeed normal as we knew it ever returns.
Planning your digital engagement
Just like we do for any involvement activity, having clear objectives, planning engagement activity with stakeholder identification, clear questions and collection of feedback and reporting output and insight remain just as important as ever.
But getting going can be the hardest part.
These are the top things to think about make your digital engagement a success.
1. A Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) system.
An SRM is a single digital repository for all stakeholder communications. It is a data store of activity (interactions), feedback (from all channels) and allows you to store, recall and analyse information quickly and easily. It can also be used as a database (e.g. for statutory consultees) and some products have stakeholder mapping functionality, enhanced reporting functions, surveys and event management built in.
Unlike CRM, SRM is concerned with what is being said as well as who is saying it.
2. An engagement portal
Making sure your website has the right functionality and is engaging enough to really harness the benefits of the channel.
With good website development a traditional listening paper or consultation document could be created with multimedia excerpts (collateral) around challenges, explore evidence and provide views. This could include ideas generation, the ability to submit new solutions, for others to comment and rate these and for people to see the conflict and consensus. It can also be a portal through to virtual engagement sessions such as deliberative events.